Associate, White and Case LLP
“It is hard to pick highlights from the past three years, as the entire experience has been nothing short of surreal. I have attended sessions at the United Nations in Geneva and New York and marched with 200,000 people at the D.C. Women’s March.”
Where do you work now, and what kind of work do you do there? How does it feel different to working in New Zealand?
I am currently working as a Data, Privacy, and Cybersecurity Associate in the Washington, D.C. office of White & Case, LLP. In this role, I advise a variety of clients including multinational businesses, NGOs, and foreign sovereigns on their data protection and cybersecurity concerns. In addition, I have counseled a number of clients in the U.S., the U.K., Japan, China, and Europe in developing and implementing compliance programs under a variety of data protection and cybersecurity laws, including the California Consumer Privacy Act and Europe’s GDPR. As a specialist on our deal teams, I advise our corporate clients on a wide range of data protection and cybersecurity issues arising in mergers & acquisitions and other transactional matters.
I have also worked on matters with our International Trade practice group. Primarily, my work with this practice group has been assisting my colleagues advising a global cryptocurrency FinTech concerning compliance with national security and economic sanctions in thirteen jurisdictions. Finally, I have had the privilege of being involved with some of the pro-bono matters the firm takes on. For example, one matter out of the Intellectual Property practice group focused on addressing trademark and copyright violations for a world-renowned charity. More recently, I have been working with a large team across the D.C. office, assisting in the discovery stages of a prisoner’s rights class action litigation matter in Virginia.
Although I only worked briefly in New Zealand, I believe the jurisdictions have a number of similarities, but some stark differences. Each jurisdiction has high expectations of their lawyers and each produces extremely skilled, diligent, and creative practitioners. The key difference in my eyes is in the scale of the matters. For example, some of my colleagues in the Data, Privacy, and Cybersecurity practice group were recently involved in an IPO that utilized 400 lawyers across 20 White & Case offices around the world—a deal team that is larger than many law firms in New Zealand.
How did you get to be there?
I graduated from my LL.B from the University of Auckland in 2016, which I followed with a Postgraduate Certificate in Information Technology. During this time, I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Andrew Erueti and interned in the Auckland office of James & Wells Intellectual Property. I had the opportunity in 2016 to spend some time at the University of Geneva attending a Summer Institute in Transnational Law, which was taught in cooperation with the Duke University School of Law.
At the end of 2016, I began my LL.M at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. During this year-long program, I took classes including Intellectual Property, Copyright Law, the Law and Policy of Frontier Robotics, Information Privacy and Government Surveillance, and Contract Drafting. In addition, I participated in an externship program, spending a semester working with the in-house legal team at the drone technology start-up, PrecisionHawk. After graduating, I spent a summer in D.C. at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit as an intern for Judge Evan J. Wallach. Judge Wallach is an Obama appointee, with an academic focus on the law of war in the twenty-first century.
I subsequently spent two more years at Duke University completing my J.D. During the summer of my second year in this program, I worked as a Summer Associate in the D.C. and London offices of White & Case. Over these two years, I took too many classes to name, but they included foundational classes such as Torts, Business Associations, Constitutional and Contract Law, and some not so foundational classes such as Fintech, Data & Democracy, Well-Being and the Practice of Law, and Music Copyright.
While at Duke, I was the founder and president of the Duke Law & Technology Society, represented Duke at the Regional Championships of the Transactional Law Competition, and was a research assistant for Professor Jerome Reichman. As mentioned above, since graduating, I have rejoined White & Case in their D.C. office.
What kind of challenges did you face on your journey; and what have some highlights been?
The beginning of my experience will be familiar to many students. I graduated from the University of Auckland without a job at a firm, and without a clear path to finding one. It is an extremely discouraging feeling, but one that drove me to keep moving forward and left me free to take up whatever opportunities presented themselves. During my time in the U.S., visas have been a pain, but I am thankful to have had both Duke’s and White & Case’s support throughout the process. Finally, for those interested in the U.S. market, the bar exam was a uniquely awful experience.
It is hard to pick highlights from the past three years, as the entire experience has been nothing short of surreal. I have attended sessions at the United Nations in Geneva and New York. Marched with 200,000 people at the D.C. Women’s March in 2017 and was on the ground at White & Case in London for GDPR day, advising multinational companies on their compliance efforts. At Duke, I attended more lunchtime events than I can remember, met Ruth Bader Ginsburg (although only very briefly), and spent a semester working closely with the U.S. Special Forces at Fort Bragg.
Moreover, my path has meant I have had the privilege of meeting a number of academics and legal practitioners who are leaders in their respective fields. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I have had to learn from the women and men at the University of Auckland and at Duke. Judge David Harvey, Dr. Anna Hood, and Scott Optican at the University of Auckland were fundamental to my initial decision to pursue an LL.M and their encouragement drove me to apply to schools that at the time seemed like a pipe dream. At Duke, Professors Deborah DeMott, Ernie Young, David Hoffman, Jeff Ward, Erika Buell, Jerry Reichman, Jamie Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, among many others, have each had a profound impact on my approach to the law and to life. Currently, I am impressed everyday by my colleagues at White & Case and look forward to the opportunity to continue to learn from them. And finally, the friendships I’ve made throughout this process will be with me for the rest of my life, giving me the assurance of a couch to sleep on wherever I end up next.
What was the application process like for going to an American University?
The application process for an LL.M at a U.S. university is made relatively simple by the centralized application portal provided by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Students can go here for information on LL.M programs and to submit their applications to schools across the U.S. Unfortunately, LSAC charges a small fee for this service and it is still a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare, but it definitely lessens the effort needed to navigate the admissions process.
What drew you overseas?
I participated in an exchange program at the University of Amsterdam during my LL.B at the University of Auckland. Towards the end of that program, a close friend, who is currently a prosecutor with the New Zealand Police, told me not to lose the momentum I had picked up. I am not sure that he meant it literally, but I feel like I have just been following through on his advice. Relatedly, the academic rigor of the program in Amsterdam was really what first piqued my interest in an international LL.M program. Ending up in the U.S. was largely good fortune, brought about by putting myself out there, submitting an application, and putting in the hard work to follow it through.
Should law students look to overseas opportunities?
I think New Zealand students and recent graduates would be well served by pursuing international opportunities in the law. Many of the students who graduated with me from the University of Auckland are working in London, and some have gone on to pursue LL.Ms, SJDs, and PhDs in the U.S., Europe, and the U.K.
I would highly recommend the University of Auckland’s 360 Exchange program as a great first step, and programs like Duke University’s Summer Institute, now taught in conjunction Leiden University in The Hague, as a taste of what is available. An LL.M program like Duke’s offers recent graduates and lawyers with a few years of PQE with a way to standout in the New Zealand legal market and has the potential to open doors around the world. And for those intending on transitioning into academia, the degree is nothing short of indispensable.
Finding a job in the U.S. is by no means a guarantee. You will increase your chances by studying at one of U.S. New & World Report’s T14 Law Schools and by leveraging your network effectively. Even this may not be enough, and you should be open to whatever opportunities that may come your way. Finally, do your due diligence and apply for every scholarship that is available to you. U.S. universities are extremely expensive and programs like Fulbright can lessen some of the burden.
What is the value of working overseas?
My experiences working overseas have been truly unique and will provide a concrete foundation from which to build my career. The matters I have been, and will continue to be involved with are at the vanguard of the legal industry and the training I am receiving at a big-law firm in the U.S. is truly unparalleled. I believe that this is only the beginning of a long career in the law, and I am excited to see where I will end up next.